Spring To-Do's

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The Frugal Do-It-Yourselfer

Saving Money on Home Improvement Projects

Many of us avoid home improvement projects due to their expense. Granted, if you are contemplating a second-story addition to your home or the construction of a new game room, then most likely you will need to hire a general contractor to complete this task. However, if you are interested in projects like painting a room, removing acoustic texture from the ceiling (I just did this), installing laminate flooring, wallpaper, landscaping, etc., then you may be able to accomplish the task(s) all on your own, or with minimal assistance.

My Personal Experience

I recently undertook the task of remolding my den and living room areas. I knew what I wanted the final product to be. However, I was extremely hesitant to begin the work due to a lack of knowledge, the fear of failure and/or making damaging, irreparable mistakes. You see, in front of a computer I'm extremely proficient. However, with tools and manual labor, I do not have much experience, so naturally I was a bit intimidated.

Two things changed my mind about the whole scenario. I bumped into a long-time friend who was known for his skill with tools and a knack for woodcarving. I informed him of my remodeling ideas and the underlying fear of the whole task. He laughed and said that what I wanted to do would not take much in terms of "professional skill" and it would save me about $2,000 in labor costs!

Once he put a price tag on the amount I would be saving, I was immediately intrigued. For me to save $2,000 of my own money, I'll definitely try my hand at these projects. Wouldn't you?

The second influence that helped me take on this task occurred on my first visit to Home Depot. I was lucky enough to run into a wonderful, polite, knowledgeable employee who took his time and explained the ins and outs of what I was about to undertake.

One side note: I could not have accomplished what I did without the help of Home Depot. I'm sure other hardware stores have pleasant, knowledgeable staff members also, but since I always went to Home Depot and since I was beginning to learn the locations of the items I needed, I simply stayed with them. Kudos to Home Depot!

Keep in mind that if the store employees are not assisting you in a pleasant and courteous manner, leave and don't go back! Don't let their rudeness distract you from your overall goal – that's what's most important, not the personality of an unfriendly person. Go elsewhere if you do not like how they're treating you. Take it from me, someone who had no idea of what he was doing: There will be some employees who will go out of their way to assist you. Once you find someone like this, keep going back to them. That's what I did. I probably went back to my assistant about 15 times over the three-month duration of my project, sometimes to buy things, sometimes just to ask a few questions.

Ask for Help When You Need It

There are basically two ways to ask for help – verbally or indirectly. Depending on your personality and how comfortable you are asking "strangers" for help, the verbal method may not be for you. That's OK! Don't feel bad or downhearted. That's just your personality, nothing to be ashamed of, so don't start thinking you should give up just yet!

Personally, I have no problem talking to anyone about anything. That's just how I am. If you are somewhat similar, then I suggest taking my approach and talking to as many people who have knowledge in what you want to do.

If you would prefer to remain as anonymous as possible, then the Internet and library will be your gold mine of information. The library may be a tad outdated when it comes to the most recent, creative home improvement projects, but check it out just in case. If you do find a book online or at a store that would be perfect for what you need, ask a librarian if they could "purchase this book since your home improvement selections are less than adequate and it's important that a library stays atop current trends and events so as not to become obsolete" (or something along those lines).

Also, at Home Depot they have a section of books on literally any home improvement projects you can imagine. They even have chairs where you can sit and read them at your leisure. This would be an excellent starting point for you.

A Look at My Two Biggest Savings

Pergo Style Click-together Flooring: $.49 per square foot X 400 square feet = $200
Foam Underlay: 400 square feet = $80
My biggest savings – found this floor/tile place getting rid of excess stock, which was about $4 per foot cheaper than Home Depot! I would've paid in excess of $1,600 for this amount.

Sod: St. Augustine at $.59 per square foot for 1,500 square feet
Delivery: Free since purchased through sod.com.
My second biggest savings – only cost me $885 instead of $2,000 plus.

Handy Tips

Those who are really not concerned about saving money can basically shop anywhere for what they are looking for. However, those of us on a strict budget must put some thought into this if we want our goals to become tangible. For example, when I originally priced Pergo flooring, it was in excess of $4.50 per foot installed. Multiply that by 400 square feet and I have already attained a bill of $1,800 (not including tax)!

Immediately I knew this was way out of my budget, but I still wanted to go with a laminate floor. I then started to price locations I found in the yellow pages, Internet and local PennySaver magazines. I learned that if I were to purchase and install flooring from distributors/wholesalers, I could save more than $1,000! Even better, if I could find a location that had an excess of a particular item in stock, then they would offer this at an unbelievable price (just like the one I found at $.49 per square foot).

Point is, if you are willing to do a little "digging" and research in order to find the lowest price available on your products, then you will be rewarded big time (just like I was). However, the flip side to that coin is if you are impatient and you want your remodeling to begin tomorrow, then most likely you will have to pay more for what you're looking for. It all depends on both your time and money situations.

Personally, for me, this was not a "must have done in two days" project, so I didn't mind spending two and a half months working on this in my spare time. I did save a ton of money, but it did take me much longer than if a contractor was hired to complete the job. Again, it all depends on your own personal situation. Just keep in mind that saving money on home improvement projects is possible if you are willing to get a little "dirty."

For more money-saving ideas visit www.SavingSecrets.com.

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